As I awaited services from my creative nail stylist, I met Thandi, whom was also supporting her appreciation for nail adornment. This was a moment when two fashionable gals discovered that they shared more than an affinity for color and nail art. From the moment we shared names, it was clear that we were bound to have a wonderful conversation. “You can call me Thandi”, she says. With a clear indication that there’s more to it (a feeling that I am all too familiar with), I immediately ask her to pronounce her full name. “My name is Thandeka Myeni. It’s from South Africa”, she says. “What! My name (Tarisai) is from Southern Africa!”, I reply with enthusiasm. From sharing unique South African names, being raised with a variety of influences that involved multi-cultural experiences and values, to being passionate about our personal impacts in the community, we were excited to become acquainted and share more with September Set.
Over dinner in a popular DC restaurant, Thandeka unveiled to September Set her vulnerability and gift describing her inability to ever fit in. As a child (first generation American with Swaziland roots), she often felt awkward among peers who couldn’t relate to her. Thandi shares her recent realization that it’s ok not to fit in. In fact, she finds value in it. This value has played a major role in her career path and interests. This is evident in Thandeka’s journey as a medical physician and beauty contestant. In the running for Mrs. District of Columbia, many are surprised to find out that Thandi is a prominent surgeon. In the office, many are surprised to find the looks of her in a white coat. It’s not just her beauty and style that stand out in the office. The reality is that Thandi is among the less than 1% of practicing ophthalmologists who are Black.
The awareness of this reality began during her first year of medical school. Thandeka began needing to wear glasses and became interested in eye health. She questioned why she had yet to meet a Black ophthalmologist. From there, her motivation grew to not only focus on eye health but to build a network that would increase the access that Black health professionals and patients have to resources that support eye health. While on this journey, her passion for Glaucoma awareness was birthed. Dr. Myeni discloses a grave statistic. African-Americans are 4 to 6 times more affected by “the theft of sight”, Glaucoma. As a leading cause of preventable blindness, Glaucoma affects the eye sight of many randomly and painlessly. People often miss the indicators until it’s too late and blindness becomes irreversible. Advocating for the awareness, prevention and treatment of Glaucoma is near and dear to Dr. Myeni. She uses her platform as a doctor and beauty contestant to reach as many as possible to support the practice and implementation of eye health, as well as, diminish the disproportionate impact of Glaucoma on African-Americans. Dr. Myeni offers the following tips for our readers.
To maintain eye health:
-Get regular dilated eye exams (at least every two years with good health, at least every one year with health issues)
-Ask questions during exams (Are there any signs of glaucoma? Eye pressure? Are further tests needed?)
-When looking for the right doctor, ask medical professionals for recommendations (who do they go to?)
-Eat a well-balanced diet
-Use sun protection (sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection)
-Use debris protection like goggles (ie. when gardening, home improvement or construction)
-Be aware of the damage that poor faux eye lash application may cause. Thoroughly research provider.
-Appropriately manage stress (ex. use of mindfulness and meditation have shown to have positive effects on body)
Indicators to get eyes checked:
-acute or sudden change in vision
-seeing floaters or flashing light
-dangerous substance that gets into eyes (go to the ER and then see eye professional)
“Along the way there are people who want to help you, let them help you”, says Thandeka. She is transparent about where she attributes her growth and shares the variety of support that she received along her journey. As a result, Thandeka wants others to not only benefit from her story full of positive experiences and faith, but to never be afraid to ask questions and have conversations about health needs with medical professionals. This is evident in her ongoing projects like the Happy Doctor Mom group on Facebook, which provides tips for busy working moms seeking joy and harmony in their daily routines. In addition to it all, Dr. Myeni looks forward to releasing a book very soon to further fulfill her mission to help others. It is our hope that her grace and wonderful spirit continue to inspire us all to understand that it is ok to not fit in. Cheers to Dr. Thandeka Myeni, who’s doing it all and sharing with others.
To join the exciting world of Thandi and her upcoming ventures follow her via Facebook and Instagram (@tmyeni)